The narrow-gauge railway moved slowly through the dry, desert-like landscape towards Grootfontein in South Africa. The few passengers who were on the train complained about the unusual drought they were experiencing. They also told me about an incredible occurrence. It had rained on one single farm and that farmer was the only one who was able to harvest corn that year. Little did I know, it was the farm to which I was headed. I had been invited to preach there at a faith conference. Once I arrived, I discovered the reason why it had only rained there.
Two godly brothers had put their savings together and purchased a large parcel of land from the government. They decided to follow the commandment in Malachi 3:10 and gave God a tenth of all their earnings. During the first year they faithfully kept their promise. Their large farm was fenced in with barbed-wire. Then they dug for and found water, built a home, plowed a portion of the land, and raised a good herd of cattle. Their undertaking seemed to succeed under the blessing of the Lord. Every year, their earnings increased. Naturally, their tithe which they gave for God’s work also increased.
After they had worked like this under God’s blessing for about 6 years, the tithe amounted to a hefty sum. One of the brothers felt that it was unrealistic to simply put that amount of money into God’s work without further consideration. When their income was small, it was easy to do. But, after God had blessed them, it became more difficult to do. “After all, we worked very hard for this,” he reasoned, “and you can’t just give that much away.” The younger of the two tried to hold his ground, but after some time, he gave in and they reduced their tithing by a fraction.
The next year, most of their livestock died and they harvested no corn. Everything seemed to fail. “I want to start giving a tenth again,” said the younger brother. “God blessed us when we did, and it is not worth short changing the Lord.” The older one, however, argued that it happened that way by chance. “Good,” said the younger brother, “we will split the farm in half. You can have the house. I will build a new one and will remain faithful to the Lord by giving at least the tithe.”
Just like that it was said and done. The large farm was divided. One man dug another well, found water and began to build another house. When I got there, the walls had just been erected and the corrugated metal roof was put into place. Everything was still quite primitive. But, next to the new home was a lush field full of glorious corn plants from which over 2500 sacks of corn were harvested. Indeed, the rain fell only on this farm and just a little on the brother’s farm beside it.
The brother attended the faith conference and complained about the monkeys who had destroyed the meager amount of corn that had grown on his portion of the land. He led me through his pathetic cornfield and showed me how the monkeys came down from the hills and destroyed the entire field. The animals broke off the husks of corn. When the corn is too hard or too soft and does not please their gums, and they simply throw it away or place one piece after another under their arm where it eventually falls out. In this manner, they can ruin an entire field. “If the monkeys would at least eat the corn instead of destroying it, it wouldn’t be so bad,” he commented.
“You don’t need to get so worked up over this,” I replied. “We preachers experience the same thing when we share the Word of God. For one it is too hard, for the other it is too soft, and whatever is left over they push onto their neighbor. If they would at least eat the Word, more people could be helped.” He found no words to defend himself, but he also did not find grace to repent and return back to God, and give back what belonged to God. The tenth of our income does not belong to us, but to the Lord.
A year later, he wrote me a letter about a large water collection dam that he had built to water his land. One morning, his son worked at the foot of the high reservoir wall while the dam was full of water. Suddenly, the wall broke and his son fell to his death. Fifteen years later, I learned that the farmer had lost his entire farm and became a beggar who traveled from one farm to the next.
On the other hand, his brother, who found grace and served God, and continued giving his tenth, remained the most prosperous farmer in the region. He experienced that the more he gave to the Lord, the more was returned to him. His entire household was devoted to God.
It is and always will be true that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), while righteousness yields great promise for the present and future life to come.
J. R. Gschwend